First comes love (and conversations about finances), then comes marriage (and decisions about joining finances), then comes the baby in the baby carriage (and learning to delegate finances). Try out these simple finance tips to help stay on track with your budget.
At every stage in a relationship, it’s important to discuss each other’s views, beliefs and of course, finances. Whether you’ve just started dating, are moving in together, getting married or preparing to have children, there are financial conversations and decisions you need to address with your partner.
In order to help you prepare to tackle this important topic together, we’ve mapped out some tips to help you, your finances and your relationship at every milestone.
Though you don’t need to talk about combining finances or planning for retirement at the onset of a relationship, talking openly about each other’s views and goals is healthy. Knowing if there are any discrepancies or major differences in beliefs will be beneficial going forward, and knowing everything upfront will help build trust. Don’t go overboard when discussing this serious topic, but don’t be afraid to casually discuss it.
Early in a relationship, you can start to get a feel for how practical your partner is with their money. Do you notice them splurging on unnecessary purchases or suggesting expensive dates far too frequently? Or do they practice frugality, minimalizing their spending on material goods? Do they put anything into their savings? Take notice of their spending and saving habits from your dates and casual conversations. Keep in mind that as your relationship becomes more serious, everyday conversations will start to reveal more and more about their monetary habits.
If you don’t feel comfortable bringing up finances, or if you feel that the relationship is too new to talk money, you can focus on career questions to get a better view of their professional goals. What do they do for a living? What are their objectives? Where do they see themselves down the road? The answers to these questions can give you a good idea of their financial plans and goals.
Compare and contrast
Compare and contrast your practices, strategies and goals to get a better grasp on your financial future. Consider discussing how each of you was brought up to manage money. You might gain some insight into future habits by talking about how each of your parents dealt with money in the past.
2. Moving In
If you and your significant other have decided to take the next step and move in together, you’ve decided to do more than just share an apartment! Now that you are sharing a space, you’ll be sharing a lot of things, including your bills and expenses, and you’ll need to come up with a system for paying them.
Decide who manages what:
Will one of you take the responsibility, or will you take turns when it comes to handling finances? At first, it might seem natural to alternate this responsibility or keep payments separate, but over time you might start to combine financial arrangements. This could take the form of a join account that you both pay into for bills or a savings account you create for holidays and big purchases.
Look into benefits
On a more practical note, if you and your partner are living together but not yet married, there are steps you can take to protect your finances. If you’re not legally married you will usually not have access to benefits that legally married couples have. Instead, look for other ways to provide financial protection. For example, some employees will extend health insurance and other benefits to domestic partners. And some pension plans will allow an employee to designate someone other than a spouse for a survivor benefit.1
3. They Said Yes!
Did you or your partner pop the question?! First, congrats! Second, it’s time to think about how this will affect your fiscal relationship going forward. You’ve decided not only to commit to loving this person in sickness and in health, but also to manage an extremely large part of life together — your finances! For the best possible future together, look to these tips:
The past matters
Only about 57% of couples know their partner’s credit score before marriage.2 That number is pretty scary, considering past mistakes can really affect your future together. So make sure to exchange credit reports before you get married. Get to know each other’s financial situation, like how many credit cards you each have and how you spend your money, including what things you both indulge in! Getting a good grasp of your significant other’s spending habits will help you make better decisions on how to merge your money after you get married.
Till debt do us part
Get to know what your partner’s debt looks like before you combine your finances — it may become yours someday! If needed, you can work together to get debts paid down. Until that happens, it’s best to keep your finances separate. You’ll want at least one good credit history to fall back on if there are wedding bells in your future.
Time to save!
Once you announce your engagement, open a savings account for your financial goals and future expenses. Many experts recommend putting at least 10% of your combined income into savings each month.2 To figure out how much you’ll need for your wedding and how long it will take to get it, use our wedding budget calculator.
Put everything on the table
Get all your bills and paperwork together and literally put it all out on a table. Calculate just how much you’ll owe each month, how much combined income you’ll have and what’s actually left when everything’s said and done. Don’t forget to factor in any potential wedding or honeymoon expenses. Also, it’s helpful to set spending limits. Before you take those vows, agree on a set dollar amount each of you can spend without talking to the other first. Before you say, “I, do,” say “how much?”
4. Getting Married
To help you and your significant other budget for happy ever after, make sure to stay involved in all financial decisions. Most property or income that you or your spouse gets during the marriage will belong to both of you — including debts you may incur.
Marital money management
Weigh your options as they pertain to money management and figure out which method works best for both of you.
- Joint account: If you go with a joint account with both of your names on it, it will make paying household bills easier but will also mean you’ll be taking money out from the same account whenever a purchase is made. You’ll have to do a good job at communicating who’s spending what to avoid any overdraws or arguments!
- Separate accounts: Financial independence is sometimes very important to people, and it can be a good idea for many, especially since it’s so easy to link your accounts together to transfer money if need be. However, this will also require each of you to decide who pays what when it comes to shared bills.
- Linked accounts: To meet in the middle with your spouse, link your accounts. You’ll still have your own personal checking account for individual expenses but you’ll also be able to use the joint money for household costs, utilities or leftover wedding expenses.
Take advantage of strengths
You and your partner each might have different financial specialties. Maybe someone is better at day-to-day bills and cash flow, while the other is great at looking at future investments. Take advantage of this dynamic to make smarter and smoother decisions.
Update your beneficiaries
Once you’re married, you can name your loved one as the person who receives money and benefits if something happens to you. This applies to things like life insurance, 401(k)s, your will and any other benefits for which they might be eligible.
In a marriage, accountability is important. While keeping some financial independence is OK of course, don’t hide your spending from your significant other. Instead, abide by the boundaries you’ve set and consult your partner before purchasing big-ticket items! It’s never fun to come home to a surprise, 60-inch flat screen that wasn’t agreed to beforehand.
New married name?
If you’re changing your name, don’t forget to change it on all of your banking and investment accounts as well!
5. Budgeting for Baby
If and when you and your partner decide to raise children, you’ll need to be prepared — they do in fact require a lot of time and money. You and your spouse might need to make significant changes to your career, lifestyle and spending habits in order to consider starting a family.
Re-evaluate how each of you will budget your time and money. Will you or your partner need to cut down on hours at the office? Maybe you’ll need to consider taking part-time hours to take care of the baby while your significant other ups theirs to save more for diapers, food and education!
Protect and prepare
When others are depending on you for financial support, you’ll need to look at the life and disability insurance coverage that you have through your employers, or at or what you can purchase independently.
Throughout your relationship, it’s safe to say that you and your partner have spent quite a bit of money. At this point, you’ve spent countless dollars on dinner dates, engagement rings, wedding prep, mortgages, baby diapers, vacations and precious memories. Hopefully, you’ve also saved some along the way. When planning for retirement, make sure to follow the below tips.
Find out if you will be entitled to benefits from your spouses plan!
Plan a budget
What type of lifestyle did you and your partner plan for? Figure out your spending limit from yours and your partner’s savings thus far to plan your retirement years! If your expenses are higher than your spending limit, you’ll need to cut back. Maybe even think about downsizing. If you’ve planned carefully and have saved enough to live comfortably, then great job! Where you and your spouse financially stand at retirement is a direct result from of your financial conversations and decisions you’ve made together throughout the years of your relationship.
Throughout the course of your relationship you will hit major milestones. Look to our outlined tips to better help you and your partner manage your finances throughout the course of your relationship.
1Wiser Woman. (n.d). Seven life-defining financial decisions. Retrieved January 19, 2016 from https://www.wiserwomen.org/pdf_files/7_Decisions_marriage.pdf
2Bank of America. (n.d). Marriage and money: 10 tips for financial bliss. Retrieved January 19, 2016 from https://www.bankofamerica.com/deposits/manage/how-to-manage-money-in-marriage.go
Bryant, S. (January 19, 2016). Tips for talking about money at every step of a relationship. Retrieved January 19, 2016 from